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Respite Foster Care: Rowena & Doug's Story

Mar 2 2018

Like many women I wanted to adopt a child from overseas, but adoption in Australia is very difficult and there is a greater need in foster care. Most people want babies whether fostering or adopting but I wanted to foster where it was needed. Knowing that these kids (almost literally at our doorstep) are in desperate need, I felt like I couldn’t just say “that’s heartbreaking” and go on with my life. I had to do something about it. I had also talked to a close friend who works for Community Services about how desperate the situation in Australia is when it comes to foster care and I was shocked to learn that thousands of children in NSW alone, are desperate for foster carers in all different capacities. The statistics are grim. Convincing my husband Doug was not difficult and the journey to fostering began in 2013.

We have three amazing adult children (aged 18,19 and 22) still living at home and we knew that fostering would have to be a team effort. I would not have done this if my children did not want to be involved with Josh* our foster child. I am so proud of them. One of the incredible blessings about fostering is when you see your own children loving others unconditionally.

It was a long and involved process, which took a year by the time we attended two weekend training sessions, 6 interviews, and completed all of the paperwork (all necessary to comply with government regulations). The agency interview you about your family of origin, faith, values, everything. They interview your children individually and together. It is full on! Originally we applied for short-term foster care and crisis care.

Short-term foster care involves the child having contact with their biological family up to three times a week. We both worked full-time, so Anglicare thought that ‘respite care’ would suit us best. Respite Care is when the family that the child lives with, or their own biological family, is given a break. You take the child for the weekend, the week, or for school holidays. The agency then matches a child with your family.

So along came Josh. We are all very protective of him and love him like he is family. Josh stays with us every third weekend and he has also been with us for about a month these past school holidays. Often Josh’s caseworker will ring us and we will take him for extra time.

We have had a few challenges along the way and have put strategies in place. Sometimes you don’t always know how to handle the situation so the Case Worker and agency are always there to help you. Whenever we face challenges we believe in hope.

Although challenging at times, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. In January, my daughter rang me from Summer Camp and told me that Josh had received the ‘Hero of the Day’ award. Josh is kind, loving, generous, gorgeous and very energetic. We don’t always talk about what he does at home and school and his feelings, we just love him and he loves us. His mum says he talks about us all the time.

Before Josh came to us he had never been to church. He loves coming with us and can’t wait to see his new friends and leaders. We need our church family more than ever for support. For Josh, non-judgemental friendships are crucial. He needs acceptance, love and encouragement, not a label as a “foster child”. We believe that there is hope and a future, not a statistic …and this is what’s so exciting. Josh is entering his teenage years, so no doubt there will be many challenges ahead, but his family and our family will be there for him no matter what.

I often meet people who say “I wish I could do what you do”. We are not special, so guess what? You can! Regardless of your age (I initially thought that I was too old), your family status, whether you are divorced, single or in a relationship, foster children are waiting to be loved and cared for. There are thousands of them and carers are desperately needed. Fostering is not for everyone but I believe a lot more families (whatever they look like) should consider it. Even though fostering is not about you, it’s about the child, we are incredibly blessed and all the better having Josh in our lives.

– Rowena & Doug Thomas, Sydney

As a Sisterhood we care about children, everywhere. We believe that every child has the right to grow up in a family. Visit and follow @coloursisterhood on Instagram for more information, tools, and inspiration to help you #bethechange for vulnerable children or young people in your world. You can also check out information on our Sisterhood ‘Children’ projects, enabling children to access their right to family and education.  Reflect. Respond. Rally. #iamsisterhood


* Name has been changed for confidentiality